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Game Today (Smart Araneta)
5 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Alaska (Game5)
*-RoS leads the series, 3-1
Game 1: RoS 105-97
Game 2: RoS 105-103
Game 3: RoS 112-108
Game 4: Alaska 111-99
A dozen sportswriters from print and social media huddled outside the Big Dome locker rooms after Game 4 Friday waiting for the man of the hour to step out and utter the magical words.
Nope, not Alaska coach Alex Compton. Nor import Rob Dozier or the battered Chris Banchero or the Beast, who was back to his growling ways after purring for most part of Games 1, 2 and 3.
A little less than an hour later, Yeng Guiao emerged from the Rain or Shine dugout, saw the milled mob, walked right towards them and ducked from under, feigning a quick getaway.
He then broke into a wide smile.
“Uuwi na sana ako,” Guiao said as the TV lights went on and cell phones and tape recorders were rammed to his face.
The Elasto Painters could have dodged the press, but they couldn’t escape the determined Aces who came up with a performance worthy of their pedigree and sensitivity to thwart a Rain or Shine sweep, 111-99, and extend the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals to a Game 5 today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is at 5 p.m., with Guiao, who cancelled a fight to London today, falling just short of inviting everyone to the party.
“We still feel we will win this championship, not just on a Friday the 13th, but maybe on a Sunday the 15th; it’s a better day,” he said, then adding what everybody was waiting for: “The championship is postponed for now, but it’s well on its way. We will try to have the balloons fall on Sunday.”
That the balloons and confetti didn’t that evening was mainly because the Elasto Painters’ guns fell unusually silent against an opponent who came out blazing and wouldn’t stop firing until all the bullets were spent.
Except for rookie Maverick Ahanmisi, who unloaded 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 from the line, no other RoS player took up arms. Paul Lee did have 11 points and Jeff Chan and Beau Belga 10 apiece, but all three combined for a grand total of one point in the fourth quarter when the E-Painters, behind Ahanmisi (15 in the last 12 minutes) and Gabe Norwood (9), rallied from 23 points down to within eight with 41 seconds left.
“We couldn’t get anything going in the first half because of the bad calls,” Guiao said. “We couldn’t get our momentum going. Noong second half, medyo umayos ng konti ang tawagan, pero konti lang, at saka malaki na yung lamang.”
Compton, for his part, felt they were due for something better after sleepwalking through the first three games of the best-of-7.
“We showed up; I challenged them,” said Compton, who broke away from team tradition to give his players a public tongue-lashing after Game 3. “If we had played like this before, we could have won one or two games.”
Dozier had 23 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter when he kept RoS at bay along with RJ Jasul (6 of his 15), while Banchero, who crumpled to the floor in the first half from a Belga foul, added 17, of which 10 came in the third which the Aces ended holding a 90-67 spread.
Abueva, meantime, finally bared his fangs with 14 points and 10 rebounds after receiving the Best Player of the Conference award.
“Contrary to popular belief that we had to make overwhelming adjustments, we just did what we were supposed to do,” said Compton.
Shoot 55 percent from the perimeter (30 of 55) and 50 percent from the 3-point arc (8 of 16) ranks high in the list.
This was probably their best shooting night,” Guiao said. “Dozier scored at will at the isolation at the post, so we have to look for something to solve that.”
So the heat is on for Game 5 where only 2 of 16 PBA teams have survived to force a Game 6.
While the Aces are still two do-or-die games away from contending for their 15th title and Compton for his first, the scent of blood will be hard to shake off when they take the floor this afternoon.
The E-Painters, meanwhile, get another crack at their second franchise championship and Guiao at his eighth, with a little bit of the past favoring the mercurial mentor, having won his last two – the 2006 Fiesta Cup with Red Bull and 2012 Governors’ Cup with RoS – on a Sunday.